The Capitals shored up their blue line for the 2018-19 season by bringing back a familiar face. Just one month after trading away Brooks Orpik, the Capitals have signed the veteran defenseman to a one-year deal, the team announced Tuesday.
The new deal carries a cap hit of $1 million, significantly less than the $5.5 million cap hit Orpik's previous deal carried. The contract also includes performances bonuses that could add another $500,000 total.
Orpik was originally signed by the Caps in 2014, but at 37 years old, his on-ice performance and the team's cap constraints no longer justified keeping him for what would have been the final year of his five-year contract. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the Philipp Grubauer deal in June and was subsequently bought out by Colorado.
A tip of the cap goes to general manager Brian MacLellan for not only finding a team willing to take Orpik's contract, but by also bringing him back at a lower cap hit. The Caps did not have to pay the money to buy him out or keep his massive cap hit, but still get the player for next season.
Orpik's large cap hit overshadowed the impact he had on the team last season including in the team's Stanley Cup run. He provides veteran leadership and a physical presence on the blue line that the team otherwise lacks.
“Brooks has been a valuable player and a great mentor for our young players and we are thrilled to bring him back to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said via the team's press release. “We feel his leadership and competitiveness on and off the ice will be welcomed back to our group.”
MacLellan had already re-signed John Carlson and Michal Kempny thus keeping the team's top-four with Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen intact for next season. After their rookie seasons, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey are both expected to have increased roles, but putting the two together as the team's third pairing presented an obvious weakness for opponents to exploit. While both have high ceilings and enjoyed strong rookie campaigns, they were added by playing with veteran partners. It is a bit early to rely on the two to carry a defensive pairing by themselves.
Orpik, who will turn 38 before the season, can mentor the two young blueliners and cycle in and out of the lineup as a seventh defenseman. It is unlikely the Caps would think he can provide the team with 82 games this season, but with his reduced cap hit there is less pressure to play him every night.
WIth the Orpik signing, the Caps look set at defense for next season. The one glaring item that remains on MacLellan's to-do list for the summer remains signing restricted free agent Tom Wilson to a new deal. According to the website CapFriendly, the Caps still have $6.265 million of cap space with which to work for next season.
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